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High stakes Disney: Chapek wants in on sports betting, making plans to join the arena

New restaurant at EPCOT. Check.

Increased prices for Disney World annual passes. Check.

A massive celebration to honor the 50th anniversary of Disney World’s opening. Check.

Photo Credit: Disney

A rise in park capacity heading into the anniversary celebration. Check.

We saw all of these things coming, but Disney a bookie? The entertainment giant serving as a platform for sports wagering and betting?

Nope. We didn’t see that one coming. But that’s exactly what Bob Chapek talked about with a group of investors on Tuesday of this week during the Goldman Sachs 30th Annual Communacopia Conference.

Chapek, CEO of the Walt Disney Company, told the group of investors that the company is looking at building deeper relationships and licensing partnerships with gambling operators through ESPN, which serves as Disney’s sports broadcasting powerhouse.

ESPN currently features some betting lines during games that are broadcast through its network, and points spreads are including during some games as well. Deeper relationships with those operators will allow Disney more opportunities to “get in on the action.”

ABC, which is also owned by Disney, does similar things during some of its sports broadcasts as well.

“There’s a long way between embedded into the ESPN business model and licensing out,” Chapek explained to the audience. “Let’s just say that our fans are really interested in sports betting. Let’s say that our partners — with the leagues — are interested in sports betting. So we’re interested in sports betting.”

Sounds like more of that “Guests’ demand at Disney Parks-type thing” that was discussed during the company’s most recent earnings call in August.

It’s hard to think of Disney–one of the most family-oriented of the Fortune 500 companies (and #41 on the list, by the way)–as a partner in gambling operations. However, there’s big money in sports wagering, and Disney is continually reimagining ways to boost revenue.

What are your thoughts? Do you feel that this is a poor move on Disney’s part–perhaps even a conflict of interest? Or do you feel like it’s a non-issue?

About Becky Burkett

I'm a Lone Star State native whose idea of joy includes any combination of the following: cold weather, "I Love Lucy," "The Andy Griffith Show," journals full of blank paper, "Toy Story," "Sleeping Beauty," my 2 boys, my 2 girls, my 4 shih tsus, Disney Parks history and being at Disney World. I love to write about Disney Parks, Disney history, all things Imagineering and PIXAR. I adore the colors, story and art direction of Disney's "Sleeping Beauty" (Team Make it Blue!), and "Toy Story" is life (minus "Toy Story 4"). I believe Walt Disney was so much more than an entertainment and theme park tycoon; I believe he was a savant with a vision for life and how it could be if happiness and kindness are strived for. I love Biergarten at EPCOT and 1900 Park Fare at Disney's Grand Floridian. You can find me croonin' with the birds at the Enchanted Tiki Room, scoring the 999,999 at Buzz's Space Ranger Spin, or trying for the highest score in the toybox at Toy Story Mania! Hey, if you dream it, you really can do it!